Archive | Flowers and Plants

Annual, perennial and interesting flowers with advice on culture, information, tips and recommended varieties

A Trio of Purple Leaves

It is hard to ignore plants with leaves as stunning as these in a Parks garden. The purple is from one of the Sumachs or Rhus family. Selecting plants that contrast in colour shape or form is part of the skill of gardening but starting with plants like these is a good beginning.

Purple is one of my favourite leaf colours of the moment and the Lamium below is called Perilla fructenscens. I am putting several plants in one area of my garden and will see how well they get on with one another.

This Heuchera surprised me growing in a wall cleft with thin soil. I do not remember planting it in what I thought would be a hostile location.

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Tree Peonies from the Far East

tree peony

History of Tree Peonies

The ancient Chinese have cultivated Tree Peonies for over 1500 years. Prized specimens are and were grown for medicinal purposes as they contain glucocides and alkolides. The  imperial palace gardens had many specimens that became quite valuable.

The tree peony was, for a time, the national flower of China and it is thought Chairman Mao sought to ban their growth as a decadent pastime. The root of P suffruicosa has been used in medicine for centuries.

Plants were transported to Japan in the 14th century. The Japanese  bred tree peonies creating over 1200 hybrids some of which are still grown today.

The cult status of Japanese Tree peonies encouraged 18th century plant hunters to import tree peonies in to Europe, particularly France and England. These plant hunters like Veitch, Joseph Rock and Kelway started their own breeding programmes from some of the five wild species and other hybrids.

 

 

The Americans crossed P.lutea (above) and P. delavayi with Japanese hybrids to produce some of the vibrant colours now available. The flowers have a short but colourful life! The shrubs are far more long lived.

Tree peonies have long featured in oriental watercolour paintings. by Zou Yigui (1686–1772). Some of the varieties, like ‘Yao’s Yellow’ and ‘Wei’s Purple’ are  depicted in a series of paintings  mentioned in the Record of the Tree Peonies of Luoyang  Ouyang xiu (1007-1072 CE).

 


Imagine the splendid sight when all the buds open.

 

 

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Primrose Pathway

2018 has been a very good year for Primroses and Primula. The cool, wet spring and occasional bursts of sunshine have played their part.

Reason for Popularity

    • Over many years there have been incremental improvements in breeding and cross pollination of varieties.
    • Gardeners have a wider choice of colour, form and more reliable vigor.
    • Retail has hit the mass market with most supermarkets and many other stores having a primula offering.
    • Cost has been reasonable and it is easy to maintain plants from year to year.

The Primulaceae Family

  1. Primrose is the common name for Primula vulgaris
  2. Primula vulgaris subsp. sibthorpii is the base for coloured primroses mainly in reds and pinks
  3. Cowslip is the common name for Primula veris
  4. Polyanthus, are a cross between  P. vulgaris x P. veris creating multi-coloured strains of longer stemmed flower heads.

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Tree Close Ups

Spring buds bursting into life.

Barking up the wrong tree

 

Patterns from nature inspire painters – is this natural or an artists impression?

Stake out your support for  trees

Limes in Malaga botanic garden lead to a interesting garden

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Veins and a Varicose Pansy

Roses are red Pansies are blue -They’re available in other colours – but what can you do?

Blue Vein Pansy is a character in the Greenskeeper Gathering andgarden dragon game of ‘Flight Rising’ where ‘These flowers fend for themselves, uprooting to seek sunlight, shade, and water as required.’
Would that all plants were so accommodating.

Plants can be segregated into two groups Monocots with parallel veins that begin at the base of the leaf and end at the tip without any branching. The Dicots that includes Pansy have veins that start at the bottom and branch out in an ordered network all over the leaf.

Unlucky Gardeners

  1. The amorous corpuscle loved in vein but gardeners are not vane about the weather and this is a vain attempt at humour!
  2. I had a rock garden but the rocks died
  3. I crossed Poison Ivy with Clover and got a rash of good luck
  4. The CO2 emissions and new weather has led to Global Worming
  5. The forecast for tonight  – Dark

Thanks to pin interest there are lots of Pansy pictures in the same vein.

 

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Bamboo Care and Maintenance

Lawns are cut regularly to encourage side shoots, prevent flowers and to keep the grass tidy. Some attention should also be given to other grasses and bamboos to encourage production of fresher growth at the beginning of the growing season.

bamboo ice

Pruning Bamboo

  • All bamboos look better when scruffy, broken or damaged shoots are removed.
  • Thin out dense thickets to create space for the flexing stems of new shoots.
  • Cut out old canes with sharp loppers or a pruning saw flush to the ground.
  • Thin out other shoots to create a balanced, airy clump.
  • Prune above a node to prevent die back.
  • Weak side shoots and branches often look unattractive and a judicious pruning improves appearance.

Bamboo Care

  • The best time to thin and prune is late spring just before new culms emerge.
  • Don’t be afraid to remove 30% of the culms leaving the freshest one-two year olds.
  • For more growth from dwarf bamboos cut down to soil level in early spring and treat like a hardy perennial to get fresh clean foliage.
  • Instead of under planting you can decorate with stones or round pebbles.
  • Some bamboos are invasive and the tough, springy roots need to be removed or root pruned annually. Plant a barrier at least 18 inches deep around invasive types.
  • Bamboo can be turned into Topiary as the leaves grow more abundantly after pruning and the culm won’t grow
  • Bamboos need to be replaced every 10-15 years
  • Water plants in late spring during a dry spell to help new shoots to develop.

Bamboo

Bamboo in Pots

  • Potted bamboos should never be allowed to dry out even in winter.
  • Because bamboo is tall, it may be susceptible to being blown over so weight the pot accordingly.
  • Bamboos make good subjects for growing in pots. I use terracotta pots as the colour seems to go well with the green leaves.
  • Pots restrict the root run of the plants and they should be trimmed every year.
  • Arundinaria viridistriata ‘Pleioblastus’ or Phyllostachys nigra ‘Black Bambo’o are decorative dwarf bamboos suitable for pot culture.
  • Feed with a high nitrogen feed as bamboos are hungry plants and you are their only source of nourishment.

New Bamboo Boulevard at RHS Harlow Carr

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New and Urban Hedge Rows

Hedge your bets and start a hedge fund and do not hedge around!

This isn’t my favourite hedge spotted on a walk to Menston railway station but it hints at what can be achieved. I would now opt for a fruitful hedge to feed me and the birds.

  • The blending of green, grey and red foliage has produced a singular hedge.
  • Mixed colours work best if kept formal, neat and tidy
  • Do not allow one type of plant dominate another, these all seem to be in proportion but vigorous growers will need more trimming
  • Different shaped foliage could also be blended in a mixed hedge
  • The stone wall provides some relief from the base of the hedge
  • Train lower branches into gaps. remove extraneous plants like the Choysia on the left

How to Plant A Hedge

  • Plant a bare root hedge in winter between November and March.
  • Buy 2 0r 3 year old plants in bundles. If you can’t plant them at once heel them into a trench.
  • Protect plants with a plastic bag whilst they are out of the ground.
  • Clear the ground of perennial weeds and keep it clear by hoeing.
  • Dig a trench 18″ wide for a single row of plants. Loosen the soil at the bottom of the trench and add slow release fertiliser like bone meal.
  • It isn’t necessary to add organic matter except perhaps as a mulch after planting.
  • Sprinkle any fungi treatment directly onto the bare roots before planting.
  • Water the hedge for the first year but then leave it to it’s own devices.
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Brussels Sprouts Difficulties

Good, firm, mild flavoured Brussels Sprouts are a heavy yielding crop that only need a bit of care and consideration. Here are our top tips.

Correct Growing Techniques

  • F1 seeds will give the best results. It is a case of you get what you pay for. Cheap Brussels Sprouts seeds often lead to open pollinated varieties that fail to justify the time and space utilised.
  • Firm almost packed soil is appreciated by Brussels Sprouts. Draw some soil up around 10″ of the stem in late summer to prevent wind rock or tie plants to a firm stake. Open loose soil encourages blown. ‘fluffy’ sprouts.
  • Wet seasons can lead to foliage loss and leaf disease. Plant 12-18″ apart or wider on an open site to reduce the severity of infection. Water in summer if there is a drought.
  • Where white blister and ringspot diseases are severe choose resistant varieties like Dimitri, Cronus,  & Bosworth.
  • This year I am trying Burbane and Rudolph from Kings seeds.

Pests and Other Problems

  • Whitefly, caterpillars and aphids can be a problem mid season. It is no fun if they get into the buttons. Cold weather cures these problems but failing that I treat plants with a mild insecticide.
  • Yellow fungus infected rotting leaves can’t be treated with any garden approved fungicide. Pull off any affected leaves and bin them.
  • As with other brassicas their is a danger of club root that is best solved by crop rotation into fresh soil improving drainage and adding lime. I have heard of planting the sprouts with a rhubarb leaf as a prophylactic.
  • Frost can be both good and bad. Young plants need to be planted mid summer well after any frost but stalks can stand into winter and are sweeter if frosted first.
  • Old sprouts can have an odor caused by compounds containing sulfur. This may be the cause of sprouts falling out of favour in some kitchens until new varieties were discovered.

Varieties & Variations of Brussels Sprouts

  • Top Eight F1 varieties include  Brendan, Trafalgar, Crispus. Nautic, Bridget, Brodie, Maximus F1 and Hastings.
  • Flower sprouts are the result of crossing a Brussels Sprout and curly Kale resulting in tasty small green and purple sprouts with curly leaves ideal for adding to stir fries.
  • Older varieties of Brussels Sprouts have the best flavour, but it is the modern hybrids which have the ability to hold the small tight buttons for a long time on the stem.
  • Red Brussels Sprouts  deepen in colour as the weather gets colder. Red Bull produces medium sized buttons with an unusual nutty flavour. The colour reverts to green when cooking. Red Ball is hardy and has a long cropping season.

Harvesting Brussels Sprouts

  • Take the buttons from the bottom of the stalk first.
  • Take off blown or flowering sprouts and any yellowing leaves as you go.
  • Cut off the whole stalk and use the sprouts indoors as you need them. They keep better on the stalk.
  • The top of the stalk can be eaten like a small cabbage
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What Makes a Good Cut Flower

Alstromeria

A Gardener’s Perspective of ‘What makes a good cut flower’

  1. A flower that need little specialist care or treatment and is easy to harvest.
  2. Reblooming often and for a long season so it looks good even when left uncut.
  3. Grows quickly and true from seed.
  4. Can be forced, so it flowers when required.
  5. Satisfies the recipient for the least consumption of resources in time and space.

Tips to Help a Bouquet Last

  1. Choose flowers with firm petals or buds that sho colour that means they have developed enough feed to flower properly
  2. Fill your clean vase with lukewarm water, that will have less oxygen, to prevent air bubbles blocking the stem.
  3. Strip off leaves below the waterline
  4. Use flower food but not aspirin, bleach sugar or lemonade that encourage bacteria to breed
  5. Treat the flowers with respect, I changed after I stopped calling them a bunch of flowers

A Customer View Point of ‘What makes a good cut flower’

  1. Fragrance that is evocative, strong and distinctive.
  2. Colour or colour combinations that are appropriate. Rich and saturated or soft, contrasting or blendable
  3. Texture and proportion that can provide contrast of shape and form.Suitable length and flower aesthetics to match a display vessel.
  4. How long will it last in a vase or foam and will it need any special treatment or conditioning.
  5. Personal appeal or favourite reflecting a special association, event or season

To grow a generic mix of flowers for arrangements and bouquets check out Thompson & Morgan
A Retailers View of ‘What makes a good cut flower’

  1. Availability for a long period from a variety of suppliers.
  2. Lots of colour and sales Pizzaz
  3. Long life in Florists pre-sale and then in the home
  4. Profitable and able to generate repeat custom

According to Linda Beutler in ‘Garden to Vase’ the answer is not just ‘Mums’ ‘Glads’ and ‘Carns’

Book Cover

Gardeners Tips to Condition and Extend Life by Plant

Dahlia
Euphorbia
Pittosporum
Alstroemeria
Fatsia Japonica
Corkscrew hazel
Phormium

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